English League One outfit Plymouth Argyle confirmed today that the club have entered administration, the latest in a string of clubs over the last several years to face the consequences of football's big-spending attitude.
That attitude has enveloped world football over the last decade, and it has now left a number of major British clubs forced to seriously re-evaluate their business model in an attempt to survive.
February of last year saw the highest profile financial collapse in Premier League club Portsmouth FC, who were almost forced into liquidation only months ago by Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC) following wild overspending and instability.
Portsmouth were by no means the first or only club to face such difficult financial times, however. Plymouth, too, are only the most recent addition to a list that has included no less than 25 English Football League sides in the last decade, including Wimbledon, Barnsley, Southampton, Bournemouth, Leeds United, Luton Town and Crystal Palace.
This list doesn't even include the non-League sides.
All of these clubs have faced financial meltdown and, often, the threat of outright liquidation. In many instances it can seem difficult to sympathize with a club that has inappropriately overspent.
But a thought must be spared for those who are innocent in this event, yet suffer the most: the supporters of these great clubs.
The heartache that such an event inevitably brings about is tough to bear. For many of us, football is the welcome escape which brings about an exciting part of our week.
Supporting a club—especially a local one—also brings a deep investment in something that becomes very serious to many.
An investment of time and an investment of money.
Most importantly, an investment of emotion.
Being a Portsmouth supporter I clearly remember reading an interview with Everton manager David Moyes bemoaning his team's inability to meet our wage offerings to players his club were interested in signing.
Realistically, this should have been a major warning for me—and our supporters—on how drastically our situation (and our spending habits!) had been altered by the arrival of owner Sacha Gaydamak. Everton were an established top-half side regularly competing in Europe. We had only just managed to survive relegation two seasons previous.
Our inevitable collapse, despite being the 2008 FA Cup winners and the 2010 FA Cup runners-up, left plenty of reason for other supporters to bemoan our financial abuses.
But in the end, sympathy must be given to the supporters of the club who simply want to have a club to support. There is nothing exciting about the threat of liquidation for any club—even your rivals—and the lessons learned over the last decade need to be much more seriously considered.
The Premier League and Football League have been working to make changes to the checks and balances over financial matters. But for those who have simply been following a model of overspending the last few years and now begin facing the consequences, that is little solace.
So spare a thought for the innocent Pilgrims supporters over the coming weeks as they work to find new ownership to save them from turmoil. I know that I—and many supporters who have faced these issues over the last decade—certainly will be.
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